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By Wendy Booher
The USGP of Cyclocross presented by Crank Brothers will set a stage this weekend for the nation’s elite racers to try their luck in the Northeast’s hotbed of cyclocross. The pivotal location just outside Trenton, New Jersey, has already lured local ‘cross stars from up and down the Eastern seaboard and the ones arriving from far-flung points across the country will only add to the tense, hyper competitive atmosphere.
Following respective wins on home turf and overseas, series leaders Tim Johnson (Cannondale–Leer–Cyclocrossworld.com) and Katie Compton (Spike Shooter) seem poised to hold onto their top spots, except that Compton, who won her first World Cup event in Pijnacker, the Nederlands, last weekend, will remain in Europe to prepare for the next World Cup race in Belgium on November 25.
Compton’s rivals like Georgia Gould (Luna), who finished second to Compton in USGP rounds one and two, Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) and Wendy Simms (Kona–YourKey.com) have recently enjoyed wins of their own and will join the crush of competitors seeking to upset standing results.
“Katie kind of ran away with the first two races but I think there are a lot of really strong women racing cyclocross this year,” said Gould. “I think it’s going to be a huge weekend with tons of people – that always makes it a lot of fun when there are a lot of people watching.”
The height of competition in many women’s races this season so far has been the race for second behind dominators like Compton and Bessette. With Compton out of the way, Bessette becomes the race favorite, but with Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain–Haywood), who finished second ahead of Bessette at the Canadian cyclocross championships, along with Rachel Lloyd (Proman–Paradigm), Kerry Barnholt (Tokyo Joe’s–Van Dessel) and Simms on the prowl for podium finishes, Rounds 3 and 4 are all but decided.
Johnson’s storied career as a champion cyclocross racer has sparked a growth trend in North American ‘cross since 1999. Now a victim of his own success, Johnson must face his inspired protégés who come to take aim at the current USGP leader.
“In a series like the USGP, the best way to take it is one by one,” said Johnson. “The series lead is something I keep an eye on; on Saturday I’ll try my best to win – if not, get the highest place possible, same thing on Sunday and same for my teammate, Jeremy Powers.”
Powers (Cyclocrossworld.com) narrowly won round one just seconds ahead of Johnson but slid back to third place behind Trebon and Johnson in round two. Only six points separate Powers and Johnson, who have been swapping victories back and forth this season.
Chris Jones (Nerac), whose road racing fitness speaks for itself, has rapidly improved his technique and done no worse than 10th in North American races this season so far. Racing in his first season as an elite pro, Jesse Anthony (Jamis), has already clinched wins at Gloucester and the Cycle-Smart International. With an eye on the future, defending national champion Ryan Trebon (Kona–YourKey.com), forecasts races that will play out similarly to what went down in Louisville, Kentucky, during the first two rounds.
“I think the racing will end up being the same four as it was in Louisville,” said Trebon. “Jesse and Chris are both riding well but I think they are still off the top by a little bit. Barry and myself had a bad weekend in Louisville and Tim and Jeremy won. Then they had bad weekend in Boulder and I won. So I guess it just depends who is riding well on any given weekend. I am feeling pretty good – still getting work done on my back and leg all the time – but I have finally been able to train for the last one-and-a-half weeks.”
No doubt Trebon, who has been plagued by leg and back pain throughout the season, holds out hope that things will turn out a little differently than they did in Louisville.
The elite races get under way starting at 1:45 p.m. EST on Saturday with the women followed by the men at 3 p.m. For more information, visit: www.usgpcyclocross.com.